Tag Archives: venture capital

Formlabs Raises $19 Million to Make Desktop 3D Printing Awesome

Form 1 3D Printer Raised $3 Million on Kickstarter, Now Gets $19 Million from VCs

Formlabs is a storybook startup. Founded by 3 engineers from the world-famous MIT Media Lab, the company launched an historic Kickstarter campaign in which they raised nearly $3 million from over 2,000 backers for their Form1 desktop 3D printer.

Now the company has achieved a new milestone. Formlabs raised $19 million in venture funding from DFJ Growth, Pitango Venture Capital, and Innovation Endeavors. Some angel investors also participated in the round. Formlabs will use the capital to expand its world-class product, design, and research teams, while growing its marketing and customer support capabilities internationally.

Formlabs Raises Venture Funding Form 1 3D Printer

“There is still a wide open space in front of us to continue innovating and bringing incredible new products to the market; with these new resources, we’ll be able to continue to push the envelope, making extraordinary new tools available around the world,” co-founder Maxim Lobovsky said, “The group we’re putting together to get here is the most creative and passionate team working in 3D printing and I’m personally excited about using this new investment to grow our team and take digital fabrication to the next level.”

Formlabs has seen tremendous growth in the last year and is now expanding into an 11,000 square foot facility in Somerville, Massachusetts. “We’re going to use every inch. There’s a lot of work to do, so we are thrilled to have DFJ Growth and Pitango onboard,” said cofounder Natan Linder, “We’re looking forward to expanding internationally, and bringing a professional 3D printing experience to people around the world.”

“We are very excited to partner with Formlabs on their next phase of growth,” said DFJ Growth Managing Director Barry Schuler, who will join the board. “Max and the entire Formlabs team have done an amazing job with the Form 1 printer, a big advancement in the new industrial revolution.”

To date, the company has shipped over 900 desktop 3D printers.

Formlabs Print Software PreForm

The company is also making software a priority with PreForm 1.0, a milestone in the development of its easy-to-use, powerful 3D printing software. Formlabs’ PreForm software allows everyone, from novice to professional, to print 3D models with just a few mouse clicks.

How Formlabs Differentiates on Quality and Price

In the increasingly competitive 3D printing industry, Formlabs stands apart for two reasons. First, it is desktop 3D printer that can form layers as small as 25 microns (.001 inches), creating incredible detail. For example, look at this photo of a neptune statue standing next to a U.S. 25-cent coin.

Form 1 3D Printed Output

Formlabs achieves this through a technology called stereolithography. Many desktop 3D printers use a process called FDM, or fused deposition modeling, that extrudes plastic layer by layer to form an object. 3D printers from MakerBot, Ultimaker, and Printrbot all use this approach.

The Form 1 3D Printer instead uses a resin based printing process ideal for detailed and complex parts. A high precision positioning system directs a laser onto a tray of liquid resin and traces out each crosssectional layer, causing the resin to harden. This process repeats until a full part is constructed. Printing is simple, reliable, and quiet.

Form 1 3D Printer Clear Resin

Stereolithography was originally invented by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems, and the company still holds a patent on stereolithography. In fact, shortly after its Kickstarter success, Formlabs was named in a patent infringement lawsuit by 3D Systems.

However, many patents have expired already and the patent named in that lawsuit is set to expire early next year, which is likely why DFJ felt comfortable putting so much money into Formlabs.

Formlabs also differentiates on price. Their Form 1 3D printer costs $3,299.

Compare that to industrial stereolithography 3D printers which cost tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars. And the Form 1 is not much more expensive than the leading FDM-based desktop 3D printer, the MakerBot Replicator 2, which sells for $2,199 and does not have nearly the precision of the Form 1.

Formlabs Finishing a Part Form 1

Interview with Formlabs

We spoke with Sam Jacoby of Formlabs about the company’s plans for expansion on the announcement of this round of funding.

On 3D Printing: Congrats on your funding. Formlabs differentiates from most of the 3D printer makers by focusing on stereolithography, but that has also gotten you into some hot water due to patents in the space. Will stereolithography continue to be the focus for your company, or are you expanding to other 3D printing techniques?

Jacoby: Right now, we’re focusing on making the Form 1 the best possible 3D printer out there. We really proud of how far we’ve come, but we there’s still so much to do. We think there is a lot to be done with stereolithography, but we’re looking at whatever technologies will allow us to create the most powerful, innovative fabrication tools of the future.

Formlabs Form 1 Detail

On 3D Printing: Your company has a great story. How did starting at MIT set you up for success?

Jacoby: MIT is a great place. There, we had access to the most incredible set of fabrication machines–but those were expensive, high-end tools. We wanted to create something that could be shared more widely.

On 3D Printing: It looks like you are focusing more on software. What are the pain points you are looking to solve?

Jacoby: Software is a big part of what we do. When making hardware, it’s easy to overlook how important software is, so we’ve really made PreForm a focus. We’ve done a lot of extraordinary work in making a tool that is reliable and easy-to-use as possible. For example, many CAD programs have a tough time creating models that are ready to 3D print. To solve that problem, we’ve incorporated algorithms that automatically repair your 3D-models, so you can spend your time designing and getting on with your work.


Thanks to Sam Jacoby for the interview and congratulations to Formlabs on its $19 million funding round.


Chris Dixon: The Smartest People Spend Their Weekends On 3D Printing

Chris Dixon 3D Printing

Chris Dixon is a serial entrepreneur and currently an investor with venture capital firm Andreesson Horowitz. In his personal blog, he writes that what the smartest people are working on as a hobby today will be what defines industry in 10 years. 3D printing is among the few industries he selects.

What the smartest people do on the weekend is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years?

Many breakthrough technologies were hatched by hobbyists in garages and dorm rooms. Prominent examples include the PC, the web, blogs, and most open source software.

The fact that flip-flop wearing hobbyists spawn large industries is commonly viewed as an amusing eccentricity of the technology industry. But there is a reason why hobbies are so important.

Business people vote with their dollars, and are mostly trying to create near-term financial returns. Engineers vote with their time, and are mostly trying to invent interesting new things. Hobbies are what the smartest people spend their time on when they aren’t constrained by near-term financial goals.

Today, the tech hobbies with momentum include: math-based currencies like Bitcoin, new software development tools like NoSQL databases, the internet of things, 3D printing, touch-free human/computer interfaces, and “artisanal” hardware like the kind you find on Kickstarter.

It’s a good bet these present-day hobbies will seed future industries. What the smartest people do on the weekends is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years.

It probably goes without saying that we very much agree!

Cloud Production Coming: Does Every Consumer Need a 3D Printer?

Cloud Production 3D Printing

Consumer 3D printers are still costly. The latest models from MakerBot are over $1,700 and a DIY kit still costs $400 or more. Does every consumer need a 3D printer? Not according to Phin Barnes, venture capitalist with First Round Capital.

At AND 1 we had a 3D printer. It was super expensive but it shortened the time from a drawing to a physical object by weeks. The file that drove the printer could also drive the CNC machines in Asia that cut the aluminum molds we used for production.

MakerBot has innovated in the 3D printing space by making the printer cheaper and establishing a marketplace for the digital files that create the physical objects. But for the people who want high quality, durable parts with real utility, will it ever be possible to have a CNC machine in your house for metal objects or an injection mold set up for TPU parts? Maybe, but why can’t I pay Makerbot to make my file in hard plastic or metal? Wouldn’t enough people want this makerbot Prime service to support a CNC machine in Brooklyn? I bet they would – and as the peer-to-peer economy grows, cloud production should grow with it.

Barnes goes on to comment about the different ways that entrepreneurs can solve “logistics problems”.

  1. Marketplaces:  There is great value in coordinating buyers and sellers and removing friction in an existing transactable space. (eBay, Half.com, ETSY, CustomMade, ThreadFlip). This is traditional behavior at web scale.
  2. Collaborative Consumption: A technology platform that coordinates demand and balances it across distributed capital assets. These platforms unlock a previously latent pool of demand (usually with very efficient unit pricing) and help individual suppliers maximize the value of their assets and time with better utilization rates. (Uber, TaskRabbit)

Both types of companies are solving a logistics problem — removing coordination friction that used to make a transaction impossible — but as this granularity of supply takes hold, the rules of utilization rates and economies of scale will still hold in the world of physical assets. I think this will inspire a third group of companies with logistics at their core: Cloud Production.

In the transition from digital to physical (online to offline) platforms that enable full utilization/rapid amortization of wholly-owned capital assets over a greater base of creators should emerge. Today’s cloud services are maximizing utilization of the physical devices required to store and serve digital goods. Cloud services in the digital space have changed the math of the creator’s business. Instead of budgeting for a certain level of demand — and buying servers to safely cover that projected level of usage, companies/creators can make sure the unit economics work for each unit of demand and architect for infinite scale. Up front costs are dramatically decreased and more ideas come to market.

This same transition should occur around the physical production of goods where economies of scale are powerful. With cloud production niche products can meet global demand and achieve greater scale than ever before. The innovation will be in the coordination and technology required to aggregate individual creativity and produce increasingly specialized, niche products with higher production value and quality.

In summary, physical goods production — enabled by 3D printing — will follow the lead of software-as-a-service and cloud computing to provide goods-on-demand. We are already seeing this trend from 3D printing marketplaces like Shapeways, i.materialise, and Ponoko.


Read the full post at Sneakerhead VC.

Cloud photo by Bast Productions used under Creative Commons license.

3D Printing Marketplace Shapeways Raises $6.2 Million Series B Funding

Shapeways Funding Announcement

With over 1 million 3D printed products, 150,000 community members, and 6,000 shops, 3D printing marketplace Shapeways has just announced a new round of funding to help fuel growth in creative commerce.  Lux Capital led a $6.2 million financing, joining existing investors Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures.

Below is a letter from CEO Peter Weijmarshausen we received about the funding:

On a daily basis, we make thousands of unique products and deliver them to people all over the world. We create an online experience that ignites creativity and increases access to the best of 3D printing, at the lowest cost. We work hard to open manufacturing such that everyone — regardless of technical background or expertise — can create the products that populate their lives.

As you can imagine, this is no easy task. To help us realize our vision and support our community, we’re growing an awesome team, building out the “factory of the future” in NYC, and expanding US distribution.

We’re excited to announce that we have a new partner on board to help us fuel our growth and the rise of creative commerce: Lux Capital. Lux led a $6.2M financing, joining existing investors Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures.

We plan to use these additional funds to help the Shapeways team grow and bring creative commerce and 3D printing to everyone. With over 6,000 independent designers selling their products through our marketplace, Shapeways shop owners are tapping into a new economic model in which their products are created on demand for their customers, at no additional cost. With over 30 material options including the recent launch of colored ceramics and Elasto Plastic, our community members have access to materials that rival the quality and cost of what you can buy in a store. And with over 150,000 community members from all backgrounds using Shapeways regularly, we’re in a really exciting time for 3D printing — you no longer need to know 3D modelling software to make ideas real.

Lux’s local NYC presence and network, as well as its expertise in commercializing emerging technologies, will help us as we expand and in particular, build out our NYC “factory of the future.” Josh Wolfe, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Lux shared, “We seek investment opportunities to help turn technical breakthroughs into world-changing businesses, and see Shapeways at the forefront of bringing the magic of 3D printing to everyday consumers.”

We’re moving really quickly to help bring Shapeways and 3D printing to everyone – to make it easier to make anything you want, to make it more affordable, and to make it faster, and faster.

We’re so lucky to have you on board for the ride.

Happy making,

Pete, Shapeways CEO and Co-Founder

Congratulations to the Shapeways team!

Top 10 Countdown: Most Popular 3D Printing Stories in May 2012

Amy Elliott Virginia Tech DREAM Vendor

Here are the top 10 most popular stories On 3D Printing brought you in May 2012.

10. 3D Systems acquired FreshFiber for 3D printed electronics accessories.

9. We wrote an editorial analyzing the space of 3D printing creators and consumers.

8. We reviewed SketchUp, Tinkercad, and 123D modeling software.

7. The fashion runway was 3D printed in Belgium.

6. The Motley Fool weighed in on public 3D printing manufacturers.

5. We featured companies exhibiting at Maker Faire Bay Area 2012.

4. Why Google sold SketchUp and what it means for 3D printing.

3. A 3D printing vending machine surfaced at Virginia Tech.

2. This New House: constructing and printing WikiHouse.

1. We featured Brad Feld as a premiere venture capitalist looking at 3D printing investments.


Thanks for reading in May!